5 SEPTEMBER 1958, Page 15

Busk-man's Holiday


THE Radio Show is the perfect busk-man's holiday for Pea- body dwellers'—or for anyone else who lives at a high density with the windows open and the volume turned up. Two hours at the show would send any sensi- tive man home convinced that he was at least one degree under, that his rice Pudding was not really creamy and that neither the window test nor the tongue test was going to help him to become a little whiter each day. This silver jubilee show combines all the sensa- tions of a knock-out blow with the impression of being at a football match, a concert, the local Palais and a class 'B' picture. Wherever you go, apart from the 'audio' listening chambers, you are haunted by roars of recorded applause from the BBC's sports display; waves of highly-fled gems from the classics; staccato gruntings from the ubiquitous Hammond organ, and many a nasal cry of 'OK, Mike, let's batter the door down.'

if you want to escape from this ear-shattering chaos, which is rather like an American play musically concreted by Peter Brook, you can find several live shows in the building. One is ITV's disappointing Tenniel-tented 'wonderland.' Another is the BBC's celebrity studio, where you can hear and see giants of skiffie saying 'yes- definitely-yes' to the aha-well-now-then inter- viewers. And a third, is a sound-effects studio, Where BBC employees make noises like marching Boman soldiers while Mr. Wallace Greenslade reads a script bursting with subtlety ('I wonder What Olympic games Mark Antony was up to last night?'). But, as the woman said, 'You can hear that sort of rubbish at home any day.' She had come, like me, to look and not to listen. We were well catered for. Everything was there, from the macabre (a metallic Frankenstein hand relent- lessly changing push-buttoned channels) to the subtopian—an honest model of mock-Tudor suburbia. This was a setting for that old one- upmanship ploy, the roof-top television aerial. Elsewhere there was a new gimmick for the in- verted snob—an indoor aerial disguised as a paralysed spray of artificial flowers. If your guest is clever enough to find these he might still miss the television set itself. Can it be that fine piece of 'Chippendale' in the corner? It could be, if you had laid out something like 200 guineas. But it is more than likely that the set is out of sight be- cause it is a portable and can be tucked away with ease. As usual most of the portable receivers are more handsome tpan the larger ones. The de- signers of this year's portable television sets have reached a happy compromise between the cock- tail-cabinet strivings of the larger models and the engine-room appearance of earlier portables. And now that more radio sets are 'transistorised' they arc smaller and better to look at.

But not everyone wants a portable. There is still some demand for large pieces of furniture. And because of the demand there is fierce competition among manufacturers to see who can provide the most eye-catching styling. The woman who asked to see a 'full fringe' set to go with her 1930 lamp- shade was disappointed, but she still had plenty of ghastly choice, for the exhibition's sponsors offer 'a range of contemporary, continental and traditional cabinets.'

What do they mean by traditional? Not only 'Chippendale,' but also the Thirties Look, which might well have wandered out of one of those nine-o'clock fireside groups in wartime films. Continental? These are highly polished, dark- stained, brass-trimmed imitations of German best- sellers. They have all the' ugly self-consciousness of American car-styling. And contemporary? The word can be used to describe the few good, clean designs; but it really means the splay-legged, ebonised, brass-ferruled stuff (with or without a tweed finish) which matches the window displays in the lesser emporia in Tottenham Court Road. It also means optical illusions. The gimmick of the year is the attempt by several manufacturers to make their television cabinets look more shal- low, and to cash in on the news that an American invention will lead to the production of sets no thicker than picture frames. One new set—the 'Slender Seventeen'—really is smaller than Cue': the others show that there is a lot of design in- genuity in the industry which could be put to better use. • So much for thinner sights. What about thicker sounds? What are the effects of hi-fi and stereo- phonic reproduction on design? These develop- ments in sound mean that the television set will soon have a large competitor to take the place of the radio, which has been banished, in many homes, to the pocket or the kitchen shelf. You can't have thicker sound without taking up more space. Until recently, while hi-ti was a cat's- whisker hobby and equipment was sold in com- paratively undressed form, there seemed some hope that its cpmmercial casing would be neat and simple. One or two of the units now available are pleasant enough. But competition is beginning and the stylists are getting to work, prdbably to the briefing of one manufacturer's terrible slogan— 'A New Shape for a New Sound.' If you want hi-fi, and you don't want tweeters in tweed, your best bet is to do it yourself.

What else does the Earls Court show offer? Among my favourites were the cheese-cake record sleeves (pornographs for your phonograph); that new low in names—the 'consolette-type' radio; and the circulating rumour that an exhibit called Fidelity Fair was doing a brisk trade among mis- informed spinsters. The best designs in the exhibition were the GPO's new telephone re- ceivers (available next year) and the monitor viewers (they would make excellent sets) in the control room of the Radio Industry Council. The best joke at the exhibition was the BBC's censor- ship, with white paint, of the worst joke at the exhibition. A picture of Cliff Michelmore looking at an Emett-like musical instrument, which in- corporated a lavatory basin, had been captionel • Michelmore tries to get to the .' But no: the Corporation have whited their sepulchral sense of humour and I won't betray them. But do go and have a look before they nip out for another coat of paint.